Katmandu living

the van de Wiel/Schou Hansen family blog

The thing I have found most difficult moving to a Muslim country has been that I have lost contact with half of the society. That I am talking about is of course the women, whom I am not allowed to talk to and whom I can never see. That is most striking when we first arrived to Yemen was the veiling of women. In Yemen there are two different kinds of veils. The original veil is the colorful "Sitarah". It is still worn by the more traditional women in the old city or by those who need a quick cover up. The "Sitarah", with its bright red and blue patterns, resembles a block printed Indian tablecloth, and the women are totally covered looking out through the material. The more common dress is the black "Abaya", also worn by women in other Arab countries, and the "Sharshaf", the traditional Yemeni women's outer garment, also black. The "Sharshaf" was brought to Yemen by the Ottoman Turks who occupied Yemen in the 16th century and again in the 19th century. Living in the older part of Sana’a we of course see both types of veils whereas the Abaya is predominating other parts of the city. As the Abaya is black it can constitute quite a danger in traffic. When driving around at night I have more than once almost run over women walking in the street in their black dresses. The other issue that isolates me in the Yemeni Society is that I cannot talk to women. Lieke of course do not have all these problems. She can attend special women parties where she sees Yemeni women without veil (judging by the dresses you can buy here in Sana’a they can be rather stunning dressed) and she can talk to women. Whenever we go the supermarket, Joop always make quite a commotion because of her blond hair and her blue eyes, and women always comes over to touch her hair or to give her a kiss. Lieke very often gets a chance to talk to them but the very quickly disappear if I come over. So I am left with one half of the society being totally alien to me. I guess that I just will have to do with my 3 girls at home. Below you see a women in a Abaya with her son.

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